Let’s face it, going to school isn’t always what a kid wants to do – especially when schoolwork is challenging. Having to read a textbook above ability level or take a times-table test on an empty stomach can be overwhelming. A kid would rather stay home and play video games. Wouldn’t you? Too frequently, though, parents let their child skip school thinking, “Its only one-day. What’s the big deal?” Many parents don’t realize, though, that school absence puts their child’s academics and educational future at risk.
What if a student could come to a place where he didn’t have those pressures? A place where someone helps him to improve his reading skills so he can read that textbook independently. A place where a hot dinner is served every night so he can focus on his academics without distracting hunger pangs. A safe place where he can play with his friends and still learn those darn times tables.
The Lehigh Carbon Community College SHINE (Students and Homes IN Education) after-school program aspires to be that place. At SHINE, we focus on working with families on the skill of educating children. Typically, children report to SHINE at the end of the school day and complete homework, get help with academics, work on STEAM projects, participate in physical fitness, or eat a meal.
In the summer, students are offered weekly home visits which allows families to get to know us and see how invested we are in their children’s success. Home visits also help us build vital relationships that enable us to call parents and have open conversations during the school year. And if attendance is poor, these relationships allow us to work with parents to solve the problem together.
Building relationships does take time and energy, but it pays off for students. When SHINE students are absent, they’ll often report first to me to let me know they’re there before even going to homeroom. I’ll see a head poke in my door in the morning to say, “Don’t worry, I’m back. My ear infection is gone.” The smile on their faces tells me that they are coming by, because they know I care.
In fact, students seem to track us down no matter where we are! Recently we had a little girl who was frequently absent, so we’d always remind her how much we missed her when we saw her. As I walked into the bathroom the other day, I heard a little voice say, “Hey Mrs. Kufro, I’m coming to SHINE today. Aren’t you happy?” It was the sweetest thing.
When you put your heart and soul into it, relationships are established. That’s how we create a place – a SHINE family – where everyone sees success.
Audra B. Kufro teaches third grade science at Mahanoy Area Elementary School, in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, and is a teacher with the SHINE After-School program through Lehigh Carbon Community College.